Choosing the right mobile phone network


The current network providers for the UK are: O2, Vodafone, EE and 3. They each supply services through a collection of linked radio masts spread all over the country, which transmit conversations from person to person. Each provider has strong and weak areas of coverage in the UK.

Virtual networks (or MVNO’s) use the infrastructure of one of the existing networks, but sell through a different brand, e.g. Virgin mobile and BT mobile use EE, Sky uses O2 and Sainsbury’s Mobile uses O2.

Choosing the right network

When beginning your mobile experience it is important to choose the right network, or in other words the network that best suits your needs. The factors that need to be taken into consideration include ‘where you get good coverage’ and ‘how good the customer service is’.

Some networks have better coverage in particular areas than others (most city areas in the UK are fully covered but you may still find it hard to receive coverage in more rural areas) but customer service varies from day to day, depending on demand.

Each network offers unique services and tariffs, so although choosing between them can take time, it is well worth the wait.

Contract or PAYG (Pay as you go)

  • PAYG or Pre-pay – The service works by a user purchasing credit vouchers (top-up-vouchers) and ‘topping’ up their handset, with vouchers starting at £10. Some phones come with a pre-loaded amount of credit. A call cannot be made unless the user has the amount required for that call’s minimum charge, which differs depending on destination of the call, e.g. landline calls, international calls, or other mobile calls. Often, Pay As You Go customers end up paying more for their calls and text messages, are limited in what they can do with their phone, and some calls may be blocked.
  • Contract – A contract arrangement will result in you receiving monthly or quarterly bills for the contract services. The bill consists of your monthly line rental charges plus any extra costs (if you go over your monthly allowance of minutes and texts) and VAT. A contract will offer you more facilities and lower call charges.

It is important to remember some PAYG phones have monthly line rental to pay or top-ups that only last a month, even if you don’t use the minutes you paid for. Some contract tariffs have no standing charges, and some offer free calls with no line rental for an up-front payment.

Choosing a tariff

Generally, the more you pay for your line rental the less expensive your call charges become. Remember to check that you are allowed to switch tariffs at a later date before signing an agreement to the contract.

When you buy a phone, it is subsidised by the network or service provider – the higher the tariff, the larger the subsidy. If within 3-4 months you switch to a lower tariff, the dealer may suffer a ‘clawback’ where that subsidy is withdrawn and the dealer will probably recover this loss from you. So be careful, as although you can switch tariffs early on, it may not be in your financial interests to do so.

Choosing your phone

There are lots of different phones to choose between. click here to view the latest mobile phone.


A lot of people don’t feel the need to take out cover for their brand new phone, although many dealers will try to make you sign up after purchase of the phone. However, it is worth considering the option of insurance because the phone is subsidised by the service provider when you sign a contract, making it worth more than you paid for it: if it is damaged, lost or stolen, the replacement cost will be higher. Consider the insurance position carefully.

Buying Your Phone

On top of choosing your network provider, phone manufacturer and tariff option, also consider which retailer to purchase your mobile from. The most popular choices include ‘Carphone Warehouse’, but the Internet also provides some great deals and services, such as ‘e2save.’